BY Lynn Stanley, Senior Editor
Single or dual sleds can move sheet metal in and out of FluidForming’s FormBalancer, allowing one part to be removed while another is forming, increasing production speed.
Single or dual sleds can move sheet metal in and out of FluidForming’s FormBalancer, allowing one part to be removed while another is forming, increasing production speed.
Good form
Pure physics provides manufacturers with a faster, cheaper, smarter way to shape metal

agic is the art of illusion, aided by sleight of hand, deceptive devices and misdirection.

When it comes to fluid-formed parts, industrial users might have trouble believing what they see, but Paul Benny, CEO of FluidForming Americas, says, “There are no magic powders or mirrors. It is pure and simple physics that results in a highly repeatable, very accurate, cost-effective part.”

Founded in Hartsville, Tennessee, in 2014 as a German company’s North American subsidiary, FluidForming’s customers include Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Whirlpool Corp. Other end users run the gamut from aerospace, agricultural machinery and alternative energy to automotive and medical equipment.

FormBalancers are job shop ready and easy to install.
Like hydroforming, fluidforming is a way of deforming ductile and malleable metal sheets and tubes into lightweight, durable parts. But that’s where the similarities end. Instead of hydraulic oil, FluidForming’s FormBalancer uses tap water that has the capacity to shape metal at pressures of up to 4,000 bar/60,000 psi. The bladder-less, friction-less forming method is able to limit springback and material thinning, eliminates the need for consumables and can accommodate pre-painted, pre-polished and pre-patterned materials without degradation to a part’s surface.

Fluidforming is the reinvention of hydroforming, Benny says. “Legacy technologies have limitations and die stamping is not a controlled process. If you need an accurate, repeatable part that is pristine,” he says, “physics renders these conventional methods incapable of that. Our physics is different. We aren’t limited.”

Minimizing risk
FluidForming Americas uses simulation and finite element analysis (FEA) to optimize part design and help customers determine material selection, thickness, formability and other variables. “This approach gives the customer a high degree of certainty about what the part will look like and minimizes their investment risk,” Benny says.

A single die (male or female) is then built and used for both prototyping and production. A nested tooling system means smaller dies with a range of properties can be used.

man practicing fluid forming
Fluidforming is a bladder-free process that uses water as the force to form.
A recent aerospace contract called for material thinning to be held at 17 percent. “We asked them how they had been doing the job up to this point and they told us they had never been able to control material thinning at 17 percent,” he says. “Our analysis confirmed a material thinning control rate of 12 percent. They didn’t believe us. We ran some prototypes and it turns out we were wrong: Material thinning was controlled at 11 percent, far exceeding the goal of the specification.”

The ability to eliminate secondary operations can save manufacturers money. FluidForming Americas was asked to take on a project for a heat exchanger that required fitup and post-production processing with conventional forming methods.

FluidForming can accommodate branding, logos, undercuts, and other complex shapes.
“With our process, you won’t see tool marks or brush surface degradation,” says Benny. “Since going to market with a new heat exchanger produced with fluidforming, our customer has saved 30 percent in costs and significantly improved efficiency and performance. The part requires no polishing or welding. After looking at the prototype part’s fit and finish, the customer said they would not have believed the results they got were possible.”
Once customers begin to understand the changes in physics, “it allows them to leapfrog their competition because they can see how to optimize their processes and products cost effectively,” he continues.
In 2018, FluidForming introduced FormBalancer 25 for microchannel fuel cell manufacturing. Methods like die casting or bladder-based hydroforming were unable to control repeatability and accuracy. “We optimized the part without the customer being forced to over design it,” Benny says. Microchannels—which have a hydraulic diameter under 1 mm—are used in fluid control and heat transfer applications because they offer low energy consumption heat transfer storage. Applications include heating and cooling equipment, consumer appliances, fuel cells, and automotive and aerospace components.
Nested tooling capabilities
Nested tooling capabilities reduce costs and material waste.
Able to form parts at 2500 bar/36,000 psi, the FB25 automates roll feed and die trimming and accommodates tight radii requirements of 0.2 mm with forming depths of 0.8 mm. FluidForming is able to use the FB25 to mass produce microchannel fuel cells. “We’re helping to commercialize fuel cell technology and make it more affordable,” notes Benny.
We’re the first company to offer sheet, tube, bladder and hydraulic forming all in the same machine.
Paul Benny, FluidForming Americas
example of Fluidforming
Fluidforming is compatible with prefinished, polished, patterned and etched materials.
The company also introduced a 4-in-1 FormBalancer in 2019. The machine can form sheet metal and offer tube forming at pressures up to 60,000 psi. It can also convert to a bladder-based hydroformer with available force up to 14,000 psi or become a 2,500-ton hydraulic press. FormBalancers can accommodate 3D-printed, metal sintered, steel, aluminum and composite tools.

“We’re the first company to offer sheet, tube, bladder and hydraulic forming all in the same machine,” notes Benny. “Operators can transition between these functions within minutes.”

The machine has a compact footprint and works with additive manufacturing functions.”

The system allows fabricators to transition from CAD to 3D-printed tooling, which makes it possible to go from design to production in days rather than weeks or months, he says.

“At the end of the day, we have a proven technology that affords customers a way to do things better, faster, smarter and cheaper,” Benny pledges. “That’s our hallmark.”

FluidForming Americas,
Hartsville, Tennessee, 800/497-3545,